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London Fire Brigade says the prosecution of a Croydon chicken shop owner handed a 15 month suspended prison sentence for flouting fire safety laws should serve as a stark warning to business owners and landlords.
Munawar Ahmed, who owns the Chicken Inn and Takeaway on Church Street, and managed it at the time of the offences, was also ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work when he was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on Monday (7 October). In addition Ahmed’s company, Chicken Inn and Takeaway Limited, was ordered to pay fines totalling £17,000 and the Brigade’s court costs of £22,752.
The offences related to the two floors above the take-away which were being used as sleeping accommodation. Ahmed and the company both pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order 2005.
Following fire safety concerns raised by Croydon Council housing enforcement team, London Fire Brigade's fire safety inspecting officers visited the premises in January 2011.
During the fire safety inspection, and subsequent follow up visits, the Brigade identified a number of serious fire safety concerns and issued a prohibition notice preventing the building’s upper floors from being used for sleeping.
Concerns raised by fire safety inspectors included no smoke alarms in the building; no fire separation between the shared kitchen on the first floor and staircase; no fire resistant or self-closing doors to the bedrooms on the first and second floors; no emergency lighting on the escape route from the upper floors and combustibles such as mattresses and cooking oil drums stored within the staircase enclosure on each floor . In addition no fire risk assessment had been carried out in the ground floor take-away or the common parts of the upper floors. A later inspection, in January 2012, found evidence that the prohibition notice had been breached.
Passing sentencing the Judge, Recorder Malins QC, said both Ahmed and his company had exposed employees, visitors and members of the public to significant fire risks over a long period of time.
London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Regulation Steve Turek said: “This verdict should serve as a stark warning to landlords and business owners that they have a responsibility under fire safety laws to ensure that people living and working in their premises are safe from the risk of fire.
“If we find people are ignoring these responsibilities we won’t hesitate to prosecute and the sentence handed down in this case shows that the courts take these matters just as seriously as we do.”
Assistant Commissioner Turek added: “This prosecution is also an example of the successful partnership working - in this case between the Brigade and Croydon Council – which is essential in ensuring landlords and business owners abide by the fire safety regulations that are there to keep Londoner’s safe.”